Titans head of culture Mal Meninga has blasted club sponsor TFH Hire Service for citing Ryan James' grand final speech as cause to terminate its contract with the Gold Coast, describing the move as "ludicrous".
National event hire company TFH made news on Wednesday when News Corp reported that the long-time Titans sponsor had formally sought to pull out on its 2020 commitment to the club.
TFH director Brett Thomas reportedly called out the "embarrassing" and "offensive" performance of James at last week's grand final, when he forgot the conclusion to his Welcome To Country speech, as cause for the termination bid on its six-figure commitment.
As well as James' grand final gaffe, the Titans last-placed finish was cited by Thomas in a letter to the club which also blamed "public comment and discussion surrounding the team’s performance, the performance of the coach and adverse discussions regarding the utilisation and selection of player talent," for TFH's attempted withdrawal.
TFH has sponsored the Gold Coast since 2012 as a jersey sponsor and holds naming rights to its high-performance training centre, but has copped a wave of social media backlash after dragging James into the dispute.
Meninga, who will coach Australia at the World Cup 9s this weekend, was stunned by the move from TFH to mention James' grand final incident.
"I thought it was ludicrous. I couldn't believe what I had read," Meninga said.
"The sponsors have been fantastic sponsors for a long period of time for the Titans but to use that as part of their messaging, as reasons why they want to terminate their contract with us, it's un-Australian.
"I don't know the detail, there would be more detail behind the scenes and I imagine it will try to be fixed behind the scenes.
"If there's still a yearning to move on and cut ties with the club I think the club will obviously work with that. And we move on and find another sponsor."
TFH remains a sponsor of both Manly and Cronulla, and last extended its Titans deal in 2017 in what was touted by the club as "one of the most valuable partnerships in the NRL."
Meninga did find a silver lining to the bizarre saga, with James receiving plenty of support over what he described as "the biggest stuff-up of all time" to NRL.com last week.
"The reaction to it has been really positive," Meninga said.
"It's not even an error. He just forgot. It could happen to anyone.
"When you put it on the scale of the worst things that can happen to anyone in the world, it's right down there. It would hardly resonate with anybody.
"The amount of support that's come out for Ryan has been fantastic and I think it's deserved.
"But to use that as an excuse [to terminate a sponsorship], well you probably deserve what you get from the repercussions of that particular statement."
A Titans spokesman declined to comment further on the matter on Wednesday, while TFH was also contacted for comment.